We will explore changes in resettlement policies, specifically related to the concept of ‘vulnerability’, and how these policy changes shape the processes of how refugees are selected for resettlement.
In 2020, nearly 26 million refugees had sought refuge, mostly in a country neighbouring their homeland. Selected vulnerable refugees are offered resettlement to a safe third country in the Global North, such as Norway. However, this is an opportunity for very few, as less than one percent of the world’s refugees are resettled annually. Current research debates question to what extent the selected refugees represent the most vulnerable and in need of relocation. How then can one fairly assess vulnerability among refugee men, women and children with different needs and resources?
Resettlement of refugees is not just about protection, but also about migration control. For example, Norway participates in the EU relocation of refugees from Greece and in the transferral and possible resettlement of migrants from Libya via Niger and Rwanda. In these cases, resettlement is an integrated part of European cooperation to control the border towards the Mediterranean, and to restricting access for other potential refugees.
In this project, we explore how criteria and categories for selection of refugees are developed in resettlement policies, with special attention to categories of vulnerability. We also study how Norway’s selection missions actually implement the categories and criteria. We do this by observing Norwegian resettlement missions in Uganda, Lebanon, Rwanda and Greece. This project will therefore provide new knowledge on both policy formulation and practices that determine refugee’s access to resettlement based on empirical data. The researchers will partake in the ongoing theoretical debates on vulnerability in forced migration studies and beyond, and contribute policy recommendations to policymakers and practitioners in resettlement.
A rising number of refugees are unable to return home or build a future in the country where they first sought protection. As a response, Norway and other signatories of the Global Compact on Refugees have pledged to expand resettlement of refugees into third countries that can offer permanent protection.
Politicians often describe resettlement as the best way to help the most vulnerable among refugees because, in the resettlement process, UNHCR screens refugees to identify those who are most vulnerable in their current country of asylum. UNHCR’s official resettlement guidelines present vulnerability as an objective criterion for selecting eligible refugees. In practice, however, identifying the most vulnerable in refugee populations is inherently complex. It is subject to shifts in the resettlement programs and influenced by related political fields, such as immigration and security policy. European countries that resettle refugees increasingly aim to balance concerns over security, integration and control on irregular migration in their resettlement schemes through strategic policymaking and bureaucratic techniques.
This project studies how the complex interplay between categorizations of ‘vulnerable refugees’, and policy-making on resettlement, shape access to resettlement. We apply a comparative design that analyses connections between different levels of governing resettlement – from policymaking at the national and international levels to actual encounter between street-level bureaucrats and refugees. Theoretically, we investigate the role of vulnerability in humanitarian interventions and practices, contributing to the growing critical literature that explores the consequences of centering the concept of vulnerability as a source of legitimacy in humanitarian work. We will also engage Norwegian stakeholders in exploring the implications for the future of resettlement.